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Incomplete or Inchoate Crimes


We all know that it is illegal to commit crimes. But what about trying to commit a crime? When can you be found guilty of committing a  crime that you tried to commit-but failed to complete?

Inchoate Crimes

These are called inchoate crimes, and we usually refer to them as “attempted” crimes. Of course, convicting people for attempted crimes can be difficult, because it isn’t always easy to tell when someone intends to commit a crime, when they planned to commit a crime, or how much planning is needed for the attempt to constitute an actual attempt. In many cases, conviction requires showing someone’s state of mind—that they actually did intend to commit the crime, but failed.

Think of it this way: If a friend says that he is going to steal a car, and you tell him “make sure you wear gloves so nobody finds your fingerprints,” is that attempting to commit a crime, or engaging in an attempted conspiracy to commit a crime? Probably not.  There must be some act, in furtherance of the attempt.

If you break into someone’s house intending to rob them, see nothing you like, and walk out, have you committed attempted robbery? Probably yes.

If you throw a match into a building, intending to burn it down and the match fizzles out, burning nothing, you have attempted arson. Certainly, the penalty or sentencing may not be as serious as if you’d completed the crime—but you can still get a prison sentence and a long one for inchoate crimes.

Aiding and Abetting

The crime of aiding and abetting is considered an inchoate crime. If you assist in the planning of the crime—even if you aren’t at the crime scene—you can be charged with and convicted for aiding and abetting. Again, you must engage in an overt act in furtherance of the crime, in order to be convicted.

Certainly, thoughts aren’t crimes—for example, you can sit and think about murdering people every day, without penalty. Thinking is not an act, and thoughts or ideas can’t be penalized. Or course, when you verbalize those thoughts—such as if you posted in social media about your desire to commit a mass murder—now, you have taken an actual act, and you could be charged with a crime, inchoate or not.


Common defenses to inchoate crimes are that you abandoned the attempt. This requires showing that you voluntarily and completely stopped all attempts to commit the crime.

The accused can argue impossibility. For example, if the person ended up in the hospital because of sickness right before the attempt, or if the person is charged with attempting to steal a car that was demolished before the crime could ever be carried out. If the crime is not physically able to have ever been successfully carried out there can be no attempt.

Contact the Miami criminal attorneys at Velasquez & Associates P.A. today for help if you have been arrested or charged with a crime.



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